Originally Reviewed – 5/11/2011
Super sleuth movies can be a tough nut to crack. These days, audiences often expect more from their James Bond style heroes than dashing looks, nifty gadgets and flying fists. Ever since the Bourne series of films, the standard for being a covert operative has been raised to not only examine the missions but take a look at the person doing all that butt kicking. Films that take the time to develop those characters tend to do well and films that don’t, people cease to care about. No matter how much fun it can be to watch somebody leap from a car going ninety miles an hour while bullets fly by, audiences connect with people, not super humans with guns. Hanna, the latest film from director Joe Wright, wisely takes the standard “guy/gal on the run from baddies” storyline and creates an interesting character that audiences will want to see more of in future installments. Let’s just hope that if Wright and company actually turn this into a franchise, they surround our heroine with something more interesting to do.
Opening in the snow encased wilds of Northern Finland, we meet Hanna, a 16 year old girl who lives with her ex-CIA father, played by Eric Bana. Hanna is there for one reason and one reason alone: to become a teenage ass kicking machine. Bereft of technology or modern advances, Hanna has traded blogging on Facebook for bow hunting elk and high school swim meets for training in hand to hand combat. This unusual entry into the world of our central character helps set this film apart from the other entries in the genre. Not only do you get a young girl with enough fighting skill to take down a small army, you get a vulnerable one. Hanna has never even seen a piece of technology before and when she sets out on a journey to take down corrupt CIA operative Marissa Wigler (played by Cate Blanchett), much of the fun is not just the chase but her interactions with this crazy world of science we all take for granted. While much of the character development is us watching her struggle with light switches and electric blenders, high marks have to go to Saoirse Ronan for giving the character a sense of helplessness to even out her deadly assassin side. The character is fresh, interesting and fun to watch as we not only see her carry out her mission but learn about modern life in a way that is always engaging
As for the mission itself, this is where Hanna starts to fall apart in places. Hanna marks director Joe Wright’s first foray into the action genre and the inexperience shows when the fists start flying. While the action involving Hanna is appropriately primal, especially given the young girls upbringing, the fight scenes start to stale as the film marches on. Hanna fights some henchmen, Wigler is on the hunt and it all boils down to a conclusion that left me a little cold. Despite some very nice camerawork and some great use of one take shots, the action in Hanna isn’t anywhere near as involving as the character herself. Action is deceptively difficult to do and while Hanna doesn’t fail completely, it definitely lacks a certain punch in rhythm and pacing. While these shortcomings do hinder the film as a pure action movie, Hanna is well directed, nicely shot and finely acted by the principal cast. A neat little action thriller that tries to rise above the malaise of the genre, Hanna has a great central story and enough visceral thrills to keep it moving along. While not the best film Wright has ever or will ever do, Hanna still succeeds on the strength of its star and leading lady. A character I wouldn’t mind seeing again in the cinemas sometime soon, Hanna serves its purpose as an indie fan’s action flick.
Score – 70%